Liverpool’s march to the Premier League title continued as Roberto Firmino’s late winner at Wolverhampton Wanderers gave them the victory that extends their lead at the top to 16 points with a game in hand.
Wolves can consider themselves unfortunate to be the victims of Liverpool’s 22nd win in 23 league games after making life as uncomfortable as anyone has for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season before Firmino ensured Liverpool took another significant step towards their first title in 30 years.
Reds captain Jordan Henderson headed them in front from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner after eight minutes but Wolves drew level six minutes after the break when Raul Jimenez glanced in Adama Traore’s cross.
It was the first goal Liverpool – who lost Sadio Mane to a muscle injury in the first half – had conceded in the league for more than 12 hours and it required important saves from goalkeeper Alisson to keep out Traore and Jimenez as Wolves pressed.
Liverpool, as ever, carried a huge threat and Firmino drilled home the winner with six minutes left – although substitute Diogo Jota then wasted a glorious chance to give Wolves a point in stoppage time.
The Reds, who have won their past 14 league games, are the third team to go 40 games unbeaten in the Premier League.
Champions-elect find a way again
Liverpool were arguably put under more pressure here at a vibrant Molineux than at any time in the Premier League this season – but the champions-elect did what champions do and found a way to get the job done.
After Wolves equalised, and with the dangerous Traore moving through the gears, there was the possibility that Liverpool could lose their first league game in more than a year.
This, however, is a team that has forgotten how to draw never mind lose and even though it came against the run of play, it was no great surprise when Firmino made the decisive late contribution.
And at the heart of it all was captain Henderson, unsung for so long but now in the best form of his career.
Henderson delivered a collector’s item with that header from a corner but it was his more customary attributes that helped his team through periods of suffering in the second half, although he also delivered the crucial pass for Firmino’s winner. He was constantly available and always urging his team-mates to greater efforts.
He has grown in stature, along with Liverpool, in these last two seasons and is now the heartbeat of this outstanding team.
His influence in increasingly recognised and he was the driving force as Liverpool ground out a win in such a difficult environment.
Wolves are here to stay
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo and his players understandably cut dejected figures at the final whistle, denied so late on as they pushed to become only the second team after Manchester United to take points off Liverpool this season.
When that disappointment subsides, they can look back with pride on a performance that produced further evidence of what has been rebuilt at this famous old club.
Wolves were organised, played without fear, and in Jimenez and Traore possess a huge threat to back up their many qualities elsewhere.
Traore’s power and pace gave Andrew Robertson a very uncomfortable night while Jimenez has developed into a striker of the highest class.
It is all played out in Molineux’s atmospheric arena, where the Wolves fans are revelling in what is being produced – and so they should.
Wolves can now regard themselves rightfully as a force in the Premier League. They are entertaining and superbly coached. This is a team that is here to stay in the upper reaches.
Man of the match – Jordan Henderson
‘The boys are human’ – manager reaction
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to BBC Sport: “We changed the system two or three times, we calmed it down. We had incredible chances in the first half and then at the end, it was a magic moment from Bobby.
“The boys are human. It was a little bit up and down. We had a discussion on the pitch, there was stuff to improve but set-pieces can bring us back in the game, a good bit of skill can bring us back in the game. Wolves were really strong but it’s clear we could settle again.
“You just have to find a way to win and have someone who makes the perfect decision and that was Bobby again.”
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo to BBC Sport: “It was a good game. We played well. There is nothing to be disappointed about. Getting momentum was important.
“We defended well, we were well organized. This is what we want. We want to compete and keep on growing.
“We had in the last moment of the game [the chance to equalize]. It’s about creating. Things will come naturally.
“I’m happy when we perform well. We faced a fantastic team. This is the standards we want.”
Most points after 23 games ever – match stats
- Liverpool have amassed 67 points from a possible 69 this season – five more than any side in English top-flight history have after 23 games.
- Raul Jimenez’s goal for Wolves ended a run of 725 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal for Liverpool since Richarlison scored for Everton at Anfield exactly 50 days ago.
- Jimenez is the third Premier League player to net 20 or more goals in all competitions this season, after Sergio Aguero (21) and Raheem Sterling (20).
- Wolves duo Adama Traore and Jimenez have combined for eight Premier League goals this season, more than any other partnership in the competition.
- Wolves have lost four consecutive home league games against Liverpool for the very first time.
- Liverpool are the first club to win three top-flight games on a Thursday in the same season since Leicester City in 1933-34.
- Wolves have conceded the first goal in 17 of their 24 Premier League games this season, including each of their last eight in a row.
- Jordan Henderson has scored more than once in the same season for Liverpool for the first time since 2015-16. Five of his last six goals for the Reds have come away from home.
- Since the start of last season, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has assisted 22 Premier League goals, at least five more than any other player, with 10 of those coming from dead balls, also a league-high.
- Roberto Firmino has scored six goals in his last eight games for Liverpool, as many as he had in his previous 32. All 10 of his goals this season have come away from Anfield.
Liverpool play three times before Wolves’ next game. The Reds visit Shrewsbury in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday (17:00 GMT), and go to West Ham next Wednesday (19:45) in their Premier League game in hand.
Klopp’s side then host Southampton on Saturday, 1 February (15:00), with Wolves visiting European rivals Manchester United at 17:30.